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What Is Pasta e Fagioli?
Pasta e fagioli, is an Italian bean soup that was traditionally considered a peasant dish due to its humble list of ingredients—cannelloni beans, Italian soffritto, stewed tomatoes, short pasta, olive oil, and garlic. While minestrone, another hearty soup with Italian roots, is typically packed with additional ingredients like Italian sausage, or veggies like zucchini, pasta e fagioli is a little more minimalist.
What Are the Ingredients for Pasta e Fagioli?
Recipes for the Italian bean soup vary around the world, but pasta e fagioli generally begins with an Italian soffritto: an aromatic flavor base similar to French mirepoix that features minced celery, carrots, and onions cooked in olive oil until they are deeply soft and brown.
Next, a mixture of meat or vegetable broth, tomato sauce, and a few choice herbs is added to the soffritto to build on its flavors. White beans and a dark leafy green like kale are added to the mix, simmering until deeply tender and flavorful. Finally, ditalini, a small pasta that looks a bit like a short, tiny section of elbow macaroni, is added into the hearty soup. Prior to serving, the pasta e fagioli gets a finishing touch of grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
Classic Pasta e Fagioli Recipe
- 3–4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small carrots, chopped
- 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, trimmed and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼–½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (crushed tomatoes will also work)
- chicken broth/chicken stock
- 2 small rosemary sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup of dried white beans (such as cannellini beans, white kidney beans, or Great Northern beans), soaked overnight
- ½ bunch of Tuscan kale, ribs removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- ¾ cup of small pasta, like ditalini
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Parmesan cheese, as garnish
- Crusty bread, for serving
- Place carrots, onion, and celery in a food processor. Pulse until minced, but not mushy.
- Heat 2–3 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Transfer vegetables to the pot, and cook, stirring often, until most of the moisture has cooked off and the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.
- Add garlic and if using, red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Add tomatoes and broth, and season well with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add rosemary and bay leaf, and bring to a rolling simmer over medium-high heat.
- Drain the beans, and add to the pot (if using canned beans, drain, but do not rinse them before adding). Lower the heat if necessary and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 10 minutes. Add the kale, and cook for 10 more minutes, until beans have soaked up all that flavor and the leaves are nicely wilted and bright green.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta just until al dente, only a few minutes. Drain, and add to soup. Cook a few minutes more until the pasta has absorbed the soup. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and serve.
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